Monday, September 19th, 2011, Happy Valley / Goose Bay
We’ve been off for awhile; well, not touring. Little more than a week ago we did a show in Clarenville at the Events Centre, a stadium. It was the first run for a lot of new material. It may be our looniest show in a long time, the balance is definitely tipped to the comic side. The tour starts here.
Hotel North One, building two; only in the northern towns would you find such a designation for what really is quite good accommodation, comfortable and spacious rooms laid out on floor plans that don’t ascribe to the standard rectangle architecture of a few million average hotel rooms everywhere else. This whole experience is different. I can cook in my room, it’s got a fridge and stove, a microwave oven, coffee maker and pots, pans, cutlery, dishes, the works. For a traveler this is a big bonus providing one has a few days to spend in one place. It’s not that the food in the hotel restaurant is bad, no, the issue is control; salt, fat, carbs, protein, all these things are of concern to people who spend in excess of a hundred days on the road each year. As I look out the hotel room window there are quite a few company pickup trucks, government vehicles and one bear trap painted vermilion green and flagged with yellow warning tape. I trust the trap is not set.
All these vehicles are indicative of a town poised to become the major center in Labrador. It may be argued that it is the hub of the Big Land. The speculators are here, the land and housing prices are shooting up. What’s driving it? Is it the promise of construction on the Lower Churchill hydro development.? Voisey’s Bay was so active for years but suddenly it doesn’t issue spontaneously from the mouths answering the question. It might be that the Trans-Labrador highway now connects all the small coastal communities and so it is logical, the larger center grows for business and shopping.
Still, there is something unique about this place. I’ve been coming here since 1978 off and on, visiting with siblings and friends living here or entertaining. Through all of these years my sense of the North has been defined here. It’s always been a land of opportunity, where convention gives way to pragmatism, style is sacrificed for comfort and where the weather demands your compliance.
Here too are the Northern people, their faces now so melded into an ever widening population as to just make this place even more worldly. Their culture appears exotic to the eyes of an Islander, their speech is gentle, their demeanor is placid. I don’t see that their culture is distinctly separate any more, it is more the cutlure of the North and everyone here has been influenced by it. Perhaps it’s a natural thing in a climate which has a temperature spread from -40 to + 40 that necessity makes people engage one another socially and seek to build a community. I personally believe that generosity is like a virus here, once given it spreads.
For three evenings now we’ve been asked out to someone’s house for a meal. You might think that this is normal. Perhaps, but it happens more in Labrador than anywhere. Here our welfare is constantly monitored by people who just simply care: “ did your suitcase arrive yet Mr. Johnson?” , “How are you getting to the theatre, do you need a ride?” and “ Mr. Blackmore would you like to have a car, do you need a car?” This is daily conversation and queries from people who feel they know us.
Yes, Labrador, the weather is sunny, the autumn is coming, the people care, the hospitality is the best, the red berries are ripe and I can go pick in a minute’s walk from the hotel door. The air is calm, the woods are within a stone’s throw. Here the land is embracing and forbidding at the same time. The Mealey Mountains remind us of our size. She’s big! What seems to me to have been a long time in the passage of my years coming here is obviously nothing in the greater scheme. The Chinese president reflected a few years ago in conversation with western diplomats that in the west we plan for such brief periods of time. In China they have learned to think about populations in the course of hundreds of years, one hundred years is simply to short a time over which to observe and form predictions. That’s the feeling of Labrador, it’s as if whatever we people do here it’s not going to matter a whole lot, that Big river continues to flow. Northerners know that.